On August 28, 2020, news of Chadwick Boseman’s death stunned show business. The actor, who was at a stellar moment in his career, passed away due to cancer that he went through privately. In fact, he kept the secret even from his closest friends. So did he to director and screenwriter Ryan Coogler, who was, at the time, writing Wakanda Forever, the sequel to the 2018 hit Black Panther.
It was a fact that defined all the director’s decisions from now on. In an interview to Vanity Fair, explained that once Marvel decided there would be no new T’Challa, they found themselves at a crossroads. On the one hand, he discarded the script that he had written and that described the relationship between the hero and his son. The child, born during the years of his absence after Thanos’ snap, was the central theme of the plot.
On the other hand, Coogler came to consider the possibility of giving up the cinema, a decision that was born due to the pain of losing Chadwick Boseman. He wasn’t the only one. The emotional and moral blow plunged the team behind and in front of the camera into confusion. The sequel became a question about how Marvel could express the collective grief through a movie.
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Would the franchise, known for its good humor and optimism, manage to touch on darker and more sensitive topics without ending up caricaturing them? Would he be able to craft a premise that would encompass T’Challa’s absence and also honor his legacy?
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, a film produced to become a tribute
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever gets it. At the same time, it is the film in the broad Marvel Cinematic Universe closest to an adult tone. His story, which includes T’Challa’s death as a major event, is a journey through all stages of mourning.
It does this without exaggerating or artificially displaying the complicated issues it deals with. For Ryan Coogler, narrating a premise based on the absent hero became a tribute. Likewise, in a way of demonstrating that entertainment cinema is much more powerful than one might suppose.
Something that also had an impact on the assessment of the film in the midst of the rest of the proposals of the rough phase four of the study. These are all the times that Black Panther: Wakanda Forever proved to be the best of its most recent stage and, for sure, of its cinematic universe.
Show a taboo subject with elegance, depth and sensitivity
Marvel, often criticized for its sense of humor, often has trouble tackling deep topics. Even the death of Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) was shown through a heartfelt tribute, which seemed to say goodbye to a long line of blockbuster movies rather than a posthumous tribute.
The funeral, on the shores of the lake, had more similarity with the closure of a long stretch of extraordinary events, than with a funeral ritual. The same could be said of the peaceful demise of Odin (Anthony Hopkins) or the various murders of Tom Hiddleston’s Loki. This last event, which occurred in three different stories, even became a running joke in the Thor sub-franchise. Which proved a problem: at Marvel, passing away is a topic that doesn’t take itself too seriously.
But Ryan Coogler does. During the first installment of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever it is insisted, over and over again, that T’Challa died of an unknown disease. He is assumed with respect and pain. So much so as to even refer tangentially to what happened beyond fiction.
“He never told anyone he was sick,” say his mother Ramonda and sister Shuri. What makes the event solemn. In addition, there is a funeral ritual that implies the identity of Wakanda and includes its inhabitants. A leader died and he is mourned and paid tribute.
This is a completely different point of view than Marvel has shown so far on such a tough subject. Of course, the actor’s real-life circumstance made it inevitable. But, nevertheless, the way to narrate a painful event of this caliber is essential when understanding the significance of Black Panter: Wakanda Forever.
Characters with brilliant story arcs that conclude fittingly
One of the great attributes of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is that all of its characters have backgrounds that Ryan Coogler carefully explores. From Shuri, played by Letitia Wright, to Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett). There is a special interest in inner growth.
At the same time, in showing how the major events of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever impact its central figures. But not only from the perspectives of his changes. His maturity is also shown, with his acceptance of pain, and then hope as inevitable and powerful events.
The script prevents its protagonists from being just emblems, although in some way they are. The nuances in their behavior, the crying, the laughter, the search for comfort, are essential elements to understand them. At the same time, to show his private journey towards new spiritual and intellectual explorations.
Marvel, until now noted for creating figures without much background or interest, was able to demonstrate with Black Panther: Wakanda Forever the wealth of its heroes. Beyond that, the way in which the franchise is able to function on less shaky and superficial ground than just banal entertainment.
A symbolic farewell for Black Panther that supports the premise of the script
Marvel turned their post-credit scenes into a tradition focused on introducing new characters or announcing future movies. The one from Black Panther: Wakanda Forever does not do one thing or the other. It’s actually a rare and moving conclusion to the film’s entire premise, a clever narrative element that completes the story’s run.
The center of the narration was the duel and how to overcome it. Which allowed Shuri to face her fears and assume the costume of the dynastic hero. At the same time, she showed how Ramonda faced suffering for her deceased son in the steadfast defense of her country. Each of the characters had the opportunity to show her reaction to T’Challa’s absence and how to reflect on it. The final sequence allows the public to do it.
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Showcasing T’Challa’s named after son whom Ramonda met, the film celebrates hope. A small child embodies a symbol of profound beauty about rebirth. Also, the fact that Shuri can mourn the loss of her family and understand the importance of her legacy. With an intelligent plot decision, Ryan Coogler built a scenario that concludes the story in a sensitive way. An achievement that makes Black Panther: Wakanda Forever a rare gem in the midst of Marvel’s criticized and uneven phase four.